Despite clear advantages to advancing digital literacy, schools often experience considerable roadblocks to implementing digital literacy initiatives. Interestingly, accessibility often isn’t the biggest factor blocking this process—more often than not, it comes down to a teacher’s own comfort with social media.
Teachers with little to no training on how to integrate digital literacy exercises into the classroom run the risk of compromising their students’ development of valuable soft skills that can produce educational and professional career advantages.
For the past three years, Rutgers Alternate Route has supported new teachers in boosting their digital literacy, by hosting edtech workshops, sharing digital resources on social media, and leading hosted discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter. After surveying 165 teachers part of these workshops, responses indicated that social media is arguably the most challenging digital tool for teachers to guide students in navigating, in large part because many school districts block students from accessing social networks when on school grounds.
Also, while teacher feedback on LinkedIn was overwhelmingly positive, feedback on Twitter was contentious. While most teachers appreciated our push for them to engage with both networks, a sizeable minority adamantly disfavored Twitter.
Three key obstacles emerged from their objections, leading Rutgers Alternate Route to address how these problems can be solved, perhaps with some digital literacy know-how.
Twitter Problem #1: Personal Privacy Concerns
“I do not like to have a presence on social media to protect my privacy.”
Many teachers refrain from using social media due to concerns of scrutiny from students, parents or even other educators. They also worry that students will attempt to communicate with them inappropriately. While maintaining distance from students is very important for teachers’ professional and personal well-being, teachers with Twitter privacy concerns can still safely and privately reap the professional benefits of social media by following any or all of these steps:
- Set up a new account: The simplest way for teachers to resolve Twitter privacy concerns and establish professional boundaries is to create a Twitter account separate from their personal account.
- Set up a Twitter account under a pseudonym: By refraining from using their full name, teachers can post tweets without fear of public scrutiny and reap the benefits of live Twitter-hosted education chats such as #NJEdchat.
- Change default account settings so that tweets are private: With private tweets, teachers have the ability to accept or deny follower requests from other Twitter users. Only approved accounts will be able to see the teacher’s tweets. All tweets, including those posted with hashtags, will only appear on the feed of approved account followers. While this protects teachers from unwanted scrutiny, it also limits teachers’ ability to fully engage in live Twitter-hosted education chats.
With these tips, fielding social media requests from students doesn’t have to be one more piece of work that teachers have to bring home with them after a long day. What’s more, teachers can apply their newly acquired digital literacy in advising students on how to protect their identity online and avoid unwanted scrutiny.